Batesville, In. — “You’re not buying a purse, you’re helping a victim of domestic or sexual violence.” That was the message from Handbags 4 Hope emcee John Vadeboncoeur Saturday at the Batesville Middle School. The 6th annual Handbags 4 Hope features new and gently used purses, a salad luncheon and domestic violence programming, with all proceeds to Safe Passage to help victims of domestic and sexual violence in the six county district the nonprofit serves. The special event raised about $9000 for Safe Passage.Vadeboncoeur was not just the emcee but the campus ministry leader of the Community Church/Batesville, the church which sponsored the fundraiser for Safe Passage. Volunteers from the church acquired gift certificates from local businesses, assembled purses, and helped with set up and clean up for the event. “We are so appreciative of the help from the Community Church. These members are truly representative of faith in action,” said Mary Mattingly, Community Outreach Director. Mattingly added Safe Passage is also grateful for the community support from the attendees and purse donors to the local businesses who donated gift certificates or items to fill the handbags.About 185 people filled the school commons area, many bringing salads to share, to bid on purses, enjoy fellowship and ultimately help victims from the area. Many tables were hosted by area church groups, such as Milan United Methodist and Madison Northside Christian Church, and several women’s groups.This year, Dave Strouse, the principal of BMS, was the speaker and shared his compelling story of growing up in a domestic violence household. His mother and wife were both in the audience. “It is so easy to criticize when you are not in their shoes. Let me tell you, it is HARD to leave and it is so much easier to stay and believe you can work things out…When domestic violence is in play you have to leave RIGHT NOW, there is no time to set up arrangements.” When he was 7 years old he recalled staying in a battered women’s shelter in Indianapolis, near the Salvation Army. “Having a place to go is so important. People can’t leave the abuse if they have nowhere to go. That is why Safe Passage is such a special blessing. It gives people a chance to break that cycle violence…. you may never know how your generosity has helped someone at Safe Passage but I would not be here today if we didn’t have someplace safe to go when we needed it the most.”Proceeds from H4H will go toward helping clients with various needs, from transporting to housing deposits to clothing needs. For those who could not attend the Batesville event, the 2nd annual Handbags 4 Hope in Brookville is set for Saturday, Sept. 22 at Third Place Restaurant in Brookville. New and gently used brand name purses will be available. Contact Safe Passage at 812 933 1990 or go online at www.safepassageinc.org for tickets.